THE EYE OF
First published in England in 2003 by Telos Publishing Ltd
61 Elgar Avenue, Tolworth, Surrey KT5 9JP, England
ISBN: 1-903889-24-3 (standard hardback)
The Eye of the Tyger © 2003 Paul McAuley
Foreword © 2003 Neil Gaiman
Icon © 2003 Nathan Skreslet
ISBN: 1-903889-25-1 (deluxe hardback)
The Eye of the Tyger © 2003 Paul McAuley
Foreword © 2003 Neil Gaiman
Icon © 2003 Nathan Skreslet
Frontispiece © 2003 Jim Burns
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FOREWORD by NEIL GAIMAN
THE NATURE OF THE INFECTION
The years pass, and the arguments go back and forth over whether
or not fiction, read or viewed, actually has an effect on the personality of
the reader or the viewer. Does violent fiction make a reader violent?
Does frightening fiction create a watcher who is frightened, or
desensitised to fear?
It’s not a yes, or a no. It’s a yes but.
The complaint about Doctor Who from adults was always, when I was
small, that it was too frightening. This missed, I think, the much more
dangerous effect of Doctor Who: that it was viral.
Of course it was frightening. More or less. I watched it from behind the
sofa, and was always angry and cheated and creeped out by the
cliffhanger in the final moments. But the fear had, as far as I can tell, no
effect on me at all as I grew. The really significant thing, the thing that
the adults should have been afraid of and complaining about, was what it
did to the inside of my head. How it painted my interior landscape.
When I was four, making Daleks out of the little school milk bottles
with the rest of the kids at Mrs Pepper’s Nursery School, I was in trouble
and I didn’t know it. The virus was already at work.
Yes, I was scared of the Daleks and the Zarbi and the rest. But I was
taking other, stranger, more important lessons away from my Saturday
For a start, I had become infected by the idea that there are an infinite
number of worlds, only a footstep away.
And another part of the meme was this: some things are bigger on the
inside than they are on the outside. And, perhaps, some people are
bigger on the inside than they are on the outside, as well.
And that was only the start of it. The books helped with the infection –
the Dalek World one, and the various hardcovered Doctor Who Annuals.
They contained the first written SF stories I had encountered. They left
me wondering if there was anything else like that out there ...
But the greatest damage was still to come.
It’s this: the shape of reality – the way I perceive the world – exists
only because of Doctor Who. Specifically, from The War Games, the
multipart series that was to be Patrick Troughton’s swansong.
This is what remains to me of The War Games as I look back on it,
over three decades after I saw it: the Doctor and his assistants find
themselves in a place where armies fight: an interminable World War
One battlefield, in which armies from the whole of time have been stolen
from their original spatio-temporal location and made to fight each
other. Strange mists divide the armies and the time zones. Travel
between the time zones is possible, using a white, boxlike structure
approximately the same size and shape as a smallish lift, or, even more
prosaically, a public toilet: you get in in 1970, you come out in Troy or
Mons or Waterloo. Only you don’t come out in Waterloo, as you’re
really on an eternal plane, and behind it all or beyond it all is an evil
genius who has taken the armies, placed them here, and is using the
white boxes to move guards and agents from place to place, through the
mists of time.
The boxes were called SIDRATs. Even I figured that one out.
Finally, having no other option, and unable to resolve the story in any
other way, the Doctor – who we now learned was a fugitive –
summoned the Time Lords, his people, to sort the whole thing out. And
was, himself, captured and punished.
It was a great ending for a nine-year old. There were ironies I relished.
It would, I have no doubt at all, be a bad thing for me to try and go
back and watch The War Games now. It’s too late anyway; the damage
has been done. It redefined reality. The virus was now solidly in place.
These days, as a middle-aged and respectable author, I still feel a sense
of indeterminate but infinite possibility when entering a lift, particularly
a small one with white walls. That – to date – the doors that have opened
have always done so in the same time, and world, and even the same
building in which I started out seems merely fortuitous – evidence only
of a lack of imagination on the part of the rest of the universe.
I do not confuse what has not happened with what has not happened,
and in my heart, Time and Space are endlessly malleable, permeable,
Let me make some more admissions.
In my head, William Hartnell was the Doctor, and so was Patrick
Troughton. All the other Doctors were actors, although Jon Pertwee and
Tom Baker were actors playing real Doctors. The rest of them, even
Peter Cushing, were faking it.
In my head the Time Lords exist, and are unknowable – primal forces
who cannot be named, only described: the Master, the Doctor, and so on.
All depictions of the home of the Time Lords are, in my head, utterly
non-canonical. The place in which they exist cannot be depicted because
it is beyond imagining: a cold place that exists only in black and white.
It’s probably a good thing that I’ve never actually got my hands on the
Doctor. I would have unhappened so much.
A final Doctor Who connection – again, from the baggy-trousered
Troughton era, when some things were more than true for me – showed
itself, in retrospect, in my BBC TV series, Neverwhere.
Not in the obvious places – the BBC decision that Neverwhere had to
be shot on video, in episodes half an hour long, for example. Not even in
the character of the Marquis de Carabas, whom I wrote – and Paterson
Joseph performed – as if I were creating a Doctor from scratch, and
wanted to make him someone as mysterious, as unreliable, and as quirky
as the William Hartnell incarnation. But in the idea that there are worlds
under this one, and that London itself is magical, and dangerous, and
that the underground tunnels are every bit as remote and mysterious and
likely to contain Yeti as the distant Himalayas. Author and critic Kim
Newman pointed out to me while Neverwhere was screening, that I
probably took this idea from a Troughton-era story called The Web of
And as he said it, I knew he was spot on, remembering people with
torches exploring the underground, beams breaking the darkness. The
knowledge that there were worlds underneath ... yes, that was where I
got it, all right.
Having caught the virus, I was now, I realised with horror, infecting
Which is, perhaps, one of the glories of Doctor Who. It doesn’t die, no
matter what. It’s still serious, and it’s still dangerous. The virus is out
there, just hidden, and buried, like a plague pit.
You don’t have to believe me. Not now. But I’ll tell you this. The next
time you get into a lift, in a shabby office building, and jerk up several
floors, then, in that moment before the doors open, you’ll wonder, even
if only for a moment, if they’re going to open on a Jurassic jungle, or the
moons of Pluto, or a full service pleasure dome at the galactic core ...
That’s when you’ll discover that you’re infected too.
And then the doors will open, and you’ll squint at the light of distant
suns, and understand ...
In the tale that follows, when the doors open, they open on the light of
India, in Kipling’s time, and on a long sun in a generation starship.
Walking through the doors we find ourselves in a baroque hard SF
fantasy, which mixes high tech werewolfism with an inverted retelling
of Beauty and the Beast. Meanwhile, almost in the background, a Doctor
Who plot begins and continues and concludes.
Paul McAuley mixes the ingredients for this particular cocktail with
panache and style, combining nanotech virus, Whovian Easter Eggs, and
fabulism with the cocky delight of someone who knows he’s going to
take you on a remarkable journey, and that you’re going to enjoy every
moment in his company.
Drink it deeply.
There’s a crystalline pillar in the middle of an hexagonal control board
which is beginning to rise and fall, with a grinding noise like a universe
in pain. And very soon now those TARDIS doors will open, to reveal
tygers, and the nature of the infection ...
August 19, 2003
‘We are all the sum of our memories,’ the Doctor told me, as I lay on my
sickbed in his strange ship. ‘The way we faced the challenges of
yesterday influences the way we will stand up to the trials of today. The
past lives on in all of us, Lieutenant Fyne, and affects its own future.’
‘I think you’ve spent too long with that swami of yours, Doctor,’ I said.
‘Fate, and the dead hand of the past ... That’s just the kind of mumbojumbo those long-haired chaps in loincloths like to bang on about.’
I was so ill that even talking hurt me. My tongue was dry and rough
and seemed too large for my mouth, rubbing uncomfortably on aching,
loosening teeth, on the insides of my sore gums. Fever sweat drenched
the silk sheet on which I lay, my hair was falling out, my fingernails and
toenails were floating loose in seeps of straw-coloured serum, my joints
ached, and my skin itched all over. My only comfort was that the four
deep parallel furrows poor Singh had raked down my chest were healing
The Doctor blotted sweat from my face with a cool cloth. ‘Even if you
are physically transformed by the tyger-fever, and I promise that I’m
going to do my best to prevent it, you’ll still be the same person, because
you’ll have the same memories as you do now.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘If the tyger-fever runs its course, I’ll become one of the
Tyger’s creatures. You saw how it turned Singh and the rest into
monsters and willing slaves. They all died trying to save their master.
Aren’t you frightened of what I might do if you can’t fix your machine
and get me to a place where I can be helped?’
‘It won’t come to that,’ the Doctor said lightly. ‘You’re your own man.
And as the song has it, Britons never, ever will be slaves.’
‘Of course it won’t come to that. I would kill myself before then.
Perhaps you would be good enough to help me, Doctor. It’s a lot to ask
of a man, I know, but there may be no other way. I’m very much afraid
that the tyger-fever is not only changing my body, it is also affecting my
mind. I’ve had such vile dreams ...’
I would not ordinarily have made such a confession to a man I had
known for little more than a single day, but the tyger-fever was reaching
its peak as, in every fibre and cell of my body, its tiny machines, smaller
and more avid than any bacilli, strove to transform me. And my dreams
truly had been dreadful – red and raw with bloodlust and bloodletting. If
the tyger-fever was giving me the memories and lusts of someone or
something else, and the Doctor was right when he said that memories
make us what we are, what would these vile, violent memories make of
The Doctor shook back his shoulder-length curls and smiled at me with
the fond patience of someone who knows a great deal more than he ever
reveals. ‘You’re a brave and stubborn man, Lieutenant Fyne. Good
qualities in a soldier, I’m sure, but they do tend to limit the imagination.
There’s more than one possible end to this story.’
‘If I lack imagination,’ I said, ‘then I can’t be imagining that you feel
that you must offer me spurious philosophical comfort because you
haven’t yet fixed whatever it is that keeps us here.’
‘There’s still a little work to be done before we’re under way again,’
the Doctor admitted. ‘As for the tyger-fever, there’s good news and bad
news. The bad news is that you are infected with millions of little
machines that are transforming your body, cell by cell. If it isn’t stopped
or reversed, you will be turned into a chimera of man and Tyger, just
like the poor men it made into its slaves. The good news is that the
machines are coordinated in their work, and that’s their weak point.
There are pulses of transformation passing through you, set by a
common clock. I can disrupt that clock by setting up a time-loop inside
your body. The fever will be forced to cycle at the same point, and
because it can’t perform the same operation more than once on your
cells, the progress of the tyger-fever will be halted.’
‘So you have a cure after all. We don’t need to find help.’
The Doctor looked grave for a moment, although his voice was as light
as ever. ‘It’s only a temporary solution. The time-loop will disrupt the
fever’s internal clock and slow its progress, but it will also begin to work
irreversible and deadly changes on your metabolism. As soon as I can
persuade the old girl to cooperate, we will have to get you to a place that
can provide a permanent cure. One of the hospital worlds of the Flower
Cultures is your best chance – they were fighting an interstellar war
against an enemy that used nanoviruses very like those in your blood.
The time-loop should hold back the transformation long enough for the
Flower Culture doctors to work out how to reprogram the tyger-fever so
that it will reverse the changes it has already made.’
This made so little sense to me that I thought I had fallen asleep for a
minute, and missed some vital point of his explanation. I said, ‘If I
hadn’t tried to rescue Singh on my own, this would never have
‘You tried to save your friend. You weren’t to know that he’d gone too
far along the path to becoming a tyger-man.’ The Doctor ducked under
the high bed on which I lay, reappeared a moment later with a glass of
clear liquid. ‘The tyger-fever works very quickly, and that’s why it’s
important that you take your medicine as soon as possible. As long as
we can halt it before it progresses too far, the transformation can be
reversed, and then the machines can be flushed from your system.’
I eyed the glass of clear liquid and said, ‘What kind of medicine is it?’
The Doctor smiled. ‘This isn’t medicine. It’s water, to help this go
down.’ He opened his other hand and showed me the capsule that lay on
his palm. It was as big as my thumb. He said, ‘If I’d had a little more
time, I could have made it much smaller, but I promise you it will do the
I had to massage my throat to get the capsule down. My fingers were
stiff and clumsy, with hard shapes like rose thorns embedded in the flesh
of their tips: tyger claws. I lay back and said, ‘When will it start
‘It already is.’
‘You seem very certain.’
‘Oh, I know something about time. Rest, Lieutenant Fyne, and the next
thing you know we’ll be at one of those hospital worlds.’
After the Doctor had gone, I lay back and listened to the muted
splashing of the fountain in the courtyard outside my little room, and the
liquid chirruping of the bright red lizard that crept on tiptoe along the
stone blocks of the wall by my bed. Time began to pass like the
flickering of telegraph poles outside the carriage windows of a speeding
train, the intervals of darkness growing longer and longer until at last I
passed into sleep, and fell into a dream of the woods at the western edge
of my father’s estate in Gloucestershire.
It was late afternoon on a fine midsummer’s day. Shafts of sunlight
turned the leaves of the clumps of whippy ash saplings into a golden
haze, and splashed on the green ferns and dog mercury that grew in the
shade of sturdy grandfather oaks that had been planted in Nelson’s day.
It was July 1914, the glorious summer before the beginning of the Great
War. I was eleven, and I was following my father’s gamekeeper, Leach,
along a narrow deer path that wound through the undergrowth between
the great trees. I was trying to step as lightly and quietly as he did, and
carried my air rifle broken open in the crook of my arm in just the same
way that he carried his ancient twelve-bore shotgun.
I was the youngest of three sons and three daughters by a good six
years. While my mother doted on me, my father was a remote and
sternly forbidding figure. He was the local Member of Parliament, and
often stayed up in town for weeks at a time. That summer, my two
brothers, Charles (who had just graduated summa cum laude from
Oxford, and would be lost at sea in the Battle of Jutland) and Harry (who
was supposed to start university that year, but would instead join the
Glorious Glosters, fight for four years in France, and return home
without a scratch) were on a fishing holiday with my father in Ireland. I
chafed in the company of my mother and my three sisters – the eldest,
Evangeline, was engaged to a much older man who was Something in
the Admiralty, and all they could talk about was the forthcoming
wedding – and Leach, patient and kindly despite his gruff manner,
allowed me to accompany him as he went about his duties. We had just
checked the pheasant cages, and were walking through the oak wood
towards the crest of the beech hanger, where in late afternoon rabbits
would pop out of the warrens they had dug in the stony soil and start to
feed on the thin grass at the edge of the trees, when Leach discovered a
set of deep, parallel furrows sliced into the trunk of an oak tree higher
than I could reach. A little way off, he found a pile of pungent
droppings. ‘Scatter a little of this around the edge of my veg patch,’ he
said, ‘and the bloomin’ rabbits won’t ever come near it again.’
‘Is it close by?’ I was breathless with excitement, and trying to look in
every direction at once.
Leach stroked his mutton-chop whiskers. ‘Reckon it was here
yesterday, or the day before, judging by the signs. It’s probably in the
next county by now, but we’ll go quietly, Master Edward, just in case.’
Beyond the ash coppices was a wide, grassy ride that cut through the
wood. As we stalked towards the ride through a wide stand of bracken,
Leach suddenly stopped and with the flat of his hand motioned to me to
crouch down and be quiet. Hot sunlight fell on our shoulders as we
squatted amongst the pungent bracken; sunlight lay brightly on the
grassy ride and on the long margin of yellow elephant grass, taller than a
man, on the far side. Shaggy palm trees leaned against a sky bleached by
heat; a flock of green parrots took flight from one of them, calling to
each other in alarm.
Leach turned to look at me. His kindly, wrinkled face was nut-brown
and framed by exuberant side whiskers. He wore his greasy derby low
over his eyes, and the collar of his many-pocketed tweed coat rode up
behind his neck. I could smell his comfortable odour of Virginia rolling
tobacco, boot blacking and old sweat. He put a finger to his lips and
said, ‘Someone coming, Master Edward.’
The elephant grass was shaking as something made its way through it
towards the ride. I heard the snick as, with a blunt thumb, Leach eased
back the safety catch of his shotgun. I raised my air rifle, and something
parted the fringe of grass along the edge of the track like a curtain.
What emerged was no ordinary tiger, but a tiger twisted into the shape
of a man, with a tiger’s low, flat-eared head and whiskered muzzle, and
blazing yellow eyes that looked right and left before it stepped into the
sunlight. Its back and flanks were striped orange and black; its chest was
as white as swan’s down. It wore a wide belt above its prominent hip
bones, hung with all kinds of shiny tools, and there was a kind of
shimmering in the air around it, as if it walked within a soap bubble.
Leach stood up and raised his shotgun. The tiger-man stopped, looked
at Leach and opened its mouth in a toothy snarl just as he fired both
It was an easy shot, and Leach could not have missed. I saw the tall
grass behind the tiger-man quiver and fall as shot chopped through it,
but the tiger-man did not even flinch, and charged straight at us. While
Leach broke open his shotgun and plucked out two smoking cartridges
and inserted a fresh pair, I shot at the monster with my air rifle, pumped
the slide and fired again. Then, in the bright moment when the tiger-man
leapt, Leach’s shotgun exploded by my ear.
I jerked awake in the cool gloom of the small, stone-walled room, but I
was too weak and too ill to remain alert for long, and soon drifted into a
reverie of the recent past, and events as fantastic as any dream.
Although I had been too young to serve in the Great War, I went
straight into the Army after school. My father, still grieving for Charles,
tried his best to dissuade me. He wanted me to go up to university and
then into law or the clergy, but I was headstrong and wanted to make my
own mark. I joined the regiment in which Harry had served, but soon
discovered that the Army in peacetime was not for me. The sentiment of
the nation had changed utterly after victory over Germany. Everyone
said that the Great War was the war to end wars, and where once there
had been rallies in support of our brave boys in the trenches there were
now rallies for universal peace and the newfangled League of Nations. I
spent three years in charge of a platoon of clerks at a supply depot
outside Reading, and another two as second-in-command of a training
camp in Kettering. When I realised that my requests for transfer would
never be acted upon (I suspected but could not prove that my father had
brought his influence to bear), I resigned my commission and joined the
Colonial Police Force, and was given a posting as District
Superintendent of Police in a sleepy town in Andhra Pradesh in the
south of India, in the dense forests in the foothills of the Eastern Ghats.
The place had been entirely undisturbed by modern civilisation until
the Railway Company decided it would be a good place for a terminus,
where timber sawn from the giant trees of the jungle would be loaded
onto long wagons for transportation to the coast. Only a few Englishmen
lived there: the Deputy Commissioner, the two agents and manager of
the timber company, the Divisional Forestry Officer, the Superintendent
of the Railway, and an Episcopalian minister, who was also in charge of
the local hospital. They and their families spent a great deal of their time
at the British Club, with its mahogany smoking room, billiard table, and
mouldering library of Victorian triple-deckers, bought in a job lot from
Mudie’s circulating library, and back issues of Punch, the Field, The
London Illustrated Magazine, and Blackwoods. They drank a great deal
and complained about their lot, the laziness and deviousness of the
natives in general, and of their servants in particular. They refused to
believe that the best days of the British Empire were over, thought the
Amritsar Massacre an unfortunate but necessary assertion of British
power, were convinced that the Rowlatt Acts did not go far enough, and
would have cheerfully supervised the hanging of Ghandi and every
single member of the non-cooperation movement.
With the exception of the Divisional Forestry Officer, who shared my
enthusiasm for studying the birds and animals of the forest, the other
Englishmen regarded me with suspicion, while I despised them for their
drunkenness and bigotry. It did not help that I had little to do but shuffle
paperwork. There were the usual cases of murder and thievery amongst
the locals, of course, but those were mostly dealt with by Sergeant
Singh, my second-in-command, and his squad of Indian police officers.
So when I heard that a man-eating tiger was active at the northern edge
of the district, I was glad of the chance to get out of the town. I had
absolutely no experience of hunting tigers, but I was young and full of
misplaced confidence, and I had read my Corbett. I took some advice on
the habits of tigers from Jimmy Foster, the Divisional Forestry Officer,
and with a mounting sense of excitement rode a motor launch upriver,
with Sergeant Singh, to the sugar cane plantation that was being
The manager of the plantation, Harry McIlvery, was a slightly built
man with a bitter and careless manner. When I arrived in the middle of
the afternoon, he was already half in the bag, offering me whisky with
my tea on the veranda, and it quickly became clear that he hated the
‘We should burn the whole bloody lot down,’ he said. ‘Get rid of it,
make some money from the land. Bring some civilisation to this bloody
I brought him around to the subject of the tiger, and he told me that the
workers claimed it had taken three men in just two days, and they were
refusing to go into the cane fields because of it.
‘They came here and demanded guns,’ he said, and poured himself
another large measure of whisky. ‘Are you quite sure you won’t take a
little nip? It keeps the bloody mosquitoes off. Well, anyway: guns. They
came to me in a delegation and asked for them. Can you believe it?
Bloody cheek. Probably put up to it by that doctor fellow who’s been
It seemed that another European had recently arrived in the area. A
man who spoke good English, McIlvery said, but who was certainly no
‘Consorts with the local holy man, fellow who lives in a tree. Been
living there twenty years, according to the natives. Never touches the
ground. Hauls his food up in a bucket, and claims to be a hundred and
fifty years old. Not the kind of person you or I would spend a moment
with – that’s how I know this chap isn’t English, d’y’see.’
I tried to steer the conversation back to the subject of the tiger, but
McIlvery wasn’t interested in talking about it. I quickly realised that he
didn’t believe that it existed, except as an excuse for the workers to
refuse to go into the fields.
‘If you want to know about it, you should ask this doctor fellow. He
was here this morning, asking if I would help him scout out the lie of the
land.’ McIlvery snorted and slurped half his whisky and soda, spilling
some down the front of his soiled white shirt. ‘As if I don’t have enough
to do around here, without any proper help.’
I asked after the man’s name, and McIlvery looked at me owlishly. ‘I
don’t believe he ever said. Some kind of doctor, that’s all I know.
Probably one of those socialists who prattle on about world government.
I do know he’s bloody cheeky. Soon as you’ve seen to the tiger, old
chap, if you can find the fabulous beast, that is, what do you say we see
I made my excuses, and was glad to escape McIlvery’s company for a
tour of the spots where the tiger had struck. Singh and I were driven
about in an old Morris truck by the foreman of the plantation, an
agreeable and eager young fellow with a degree in agriculture from
Bangalore University. He took us to the workers’ settlement, where I
arranged the purchase of a goat. Then, with the unfortunate animal
hobbled in the back of the truck, we drove along the eastern edge of the
plantation, where scrub-covered hills rose out of a fringe of forest.
Singh found some pug-marks at a place where a stream crossed the
road, and said that it was a very large beast.
‘Perhaps an old male,’ I said, recalling something I had read. ‘They
can’t hunt properly, so they go after people.’
‘Perhaps,’ Singh said. He was a solidly built, bearded man, dressed like
me in shorts and puttees and a white, short-sleeved shirt, although of
course he wore a turban and I wore my toupee.
The foreman said: ‘It is a very hungry beast, to take three men in just
‘Perhaps it likes to kill for the sake of killing,’ Singh said. He was
twisting the end of his beard between finger and thumb, and looking at
the trees that stood all around us in the green, sweltering air.
‘Come off it, Singh,’ I said. ‘What do you know about tigers?’
‘Not very much,’ he admitted. ‘I grew up in Delhi. The only tiger I
have ever seen was safely caged in a zoo.’
‘We should be getting back,’ the foreman said. ‘It is getting near dusk,
and all the incidents have taken place at night.’
‘Then we must set up our trap at once,’ I said.
‘It will have to be a very clever trap,’ someone else said.
My heart thumped. The man had somehow come up behind the truck
without any of us seeing him. He stood in a blade of sunlight, smiling
sweetly. He was slender and of average height, dressed in a linen suit
and a white silk shirt with elaborate ruffles at the neck and cuffs, and a
straw hat perched on the mop of curls that tumbled around a pale,
sensuous face that reminded me of a portrait of the poet Shelley that
hung in my father’s library.
I said foolishly, ‘You must be the doctor.’
‘The Doctor, at your service,’ he said, and raised his hat and gave a
little bow. ‘If you are Lieutenant Edward Fyne, of the Colonial Police,
then your friend here must be Sergeant Singh. You’ve come to catch the
tiger, but I must warn you that it’s no ordinary tiger. You’re going to
need my help.’
None of the awful business that followed would have happened if I had
believed the Doctor’s story about the tiger that wasn’t a tiger at all, but
was in fact a member of a race of chameleon creatures from the stars.
But frankly, it was more fantastic than any of the lurid scientific
romances that were occasionally published in Blackwoods, and it was
not the kind of story to entertain in a hot, stuffy forest clearing, with the
light going fast and a man-hunter on the prowl. I’m afraid that I tried to
make light of it, saying, ‘I suppose you’ve encountered this kind of thing
many times before?’
‘Far too often, I’m afraid.’
‘Of course you have. That’s why you just happened to be in the vicinity
when the tiger started to hunt down men.’
‘Don’t you believe in fate, and the fortunate coincidence?’ The Doctor
fixed his gaze on mine. His eyes were very blue and, despite his wry
little smile, very serious. ‘You have to believe me, Lieutenant Fyne.
Three men have already been taken by this creature. I need your help to
stop it, and to rescue its victims if it isn’t too late.’
‘Please, gentlemen,’ the foreman said. ‘It is very late, and very
dangerous, too. I must be getting back.’
The Doctor held my gaze a moment more, then smiled and said, ‘He’s
absolutely right. Let’s get back to civilisation. I’ll tell you what I’ve
found, and we can make our plans.’
The Doctor’s presumption had rubbed me up the wrong way. I said, ‘I
have already made my plans.’
‘I did notice the goat. I suppose it would do as bait if this were an
ordinary tiger, but what this creature wants is men.’
‘If it’s hungry enough, it will take a hobbled goat, I think.’
‘I can assure you that the appetite that drives it is not hunger,’ the
Doctor said. ‘It won’t stop at three victims, or even ten or a hundred. If it
isn’t stopped now, it will begin to spread through this district, through
the country, the whole world –‘
I’m afraid that I laughed.
The Doctor said, ‘Why don’t you ask the villagers about this? There’s
an old woman who saw it take its second victim. She said that it glowed,
like a ghost.’
‘That’s true,’ the foreman said. ‘But she is a very old woman, and has
blindness in one eye.’
I said, ‘Am I to suppose that it is not some kind of Martian then, but a
‘Oh dear,’ the Doctor said. ‘You’re one of those people who won’t
believe anything until you see it for yourself.’
‘The foreman can give you a lift back to the village, Doctor. It really
isn’t safe for you to be wandering around in the forest at night.’
‘You’re going to stake out your goat, and wait for the beast to happen
‘I understand that’s the usual technique.’
‘Then I rather think I should stay with you.’
I put my hand on the pistol holstered at my hip and said, ‘I rather think
In the end, the Doctor went meekly, and drove off with the foreman
after that good fellow had helped us unpack our gear and stake the goat
at the edge of the stream. Singh and I found perches in trees about 200
yards apart, on either side of the stream, and settled down and waited.
The sun set and the Moon rose, tipped on its side. Wedged on a forked
branch, half-sitting, half-standing, I ate the sweaty chunk of Cheddar and
the oatmeal biscuits that I had brought along, drank the cold tea in my
flask. I longed to smoke my pipe, but knew that the smell of tobacco
smoke could frighten the tiger away.
At last, the goat, which had been placidly munching at the weeds along
the edge of the stream, raised its head and began to bleat. I unslung my
rifle. My heart was beating quickly and lightly, and my hands were
trembling. I took several deep breaths to quell my excitement. The goat
was trembling too, pale as a ghost in the moonlight. I had a good view of
it, framed between leaf-laden branches. I was staring into the shadows
behind it when two shots rang out. Singh shouted. I turned so sharply
that I almost lost my footing and my grip on my rifle, and spied what
looked like three men struggling on the road beneath the tree where
Singh had taken his position. Then I saw, by the lemony glow that
enveloped it, the creature that loped past the goat towards me.
It moved very quickly, but I was able to take aim and loose off a shot.
A star bloomed and faded in the sharp yellow nimbus, right in the centre
of the creature’s chest, but it didn’t falter. By the time I had worked the
bolt of my rifle, it was directly below me. I aimed right into its avid,
eager stare – and a sudden wash of red flame half-blinded me. I fired
into it and worked the bolt and fired again.
‘Pax!’ a familiar voice shouted. ‘Cease fire, Fyne, cease fire!’
It was the Doctor. I stared down at him, trying to blink away floating
figures of green light. He stood in the moonlight in the middle of the
road, looking up at me.
‘I thought you were safely in the village,’ I said, after I had climbed
down. My legs were as wobbly as when I had first stepped ashore at
‘Luckily for you, I came back,’ the Doctor said. He was flushed and
excited and out of breath.
‘It ran away because I shot at it,’ I said, and raised my voice and called
out Singh’s name, expecting to see him step out of the darkness on the
other side of the stream with his usual unruffled demeanour intact and
his rifle slung over his shoulder.
The Doctor said: ‘You scored several bullseyes, but your target was
protected by a kind of inertial shield. You must have seen the glow
around it. Tyger, tyger, burning bright ... Do you know Blake, William
Blake? A countryman of yours. I met him once. A very fine artist and
poet, but rather eccentric, especially in the matter of clothes. Uniquely
gifted, too, not that he fully understood his gift. He saw angels and
devils – that’s what he called them. Although as it turned out they
weren’t really angels and devils at all, but creatures like your Tyger –’
‘I know who William Blake is,’ I said, ‘but I don’t understand what
you mean by "an inertial shield". More fanciful mumbo-jumbo, I must
suppose. Singh! Singh!’
There was no reply, and I started towards the tree where he had found a
The Doctor followed me. ‘An inertial shield absorbs the impact of fastmoving objects above the molecular scale, but it has to allow gases
through, or its user would quickly suffocate.’ He held up a device like an
electrical torch; a brief burp of red flame flickered at its hollow end.
‘Fortunately, it also lets burning gases through. I believe I rather badly
singed our monster.’
What was it?’ I said. Although I was reluctant to admit it, I knew that
what I had shot had been no tiger – and no man, either.
‘I told you. One of the chameleon races.’
The Doctor and I waded across the stream. The goat shied away from
us. Singh’s unravelled turban lay on the ground next to his rifle. The
rifle’s walnut stock was splintered and scored.
‘Poor chap,’ the Doctor said.
‘There was more than one of them,’ I said.
‘I did tell you that it makes more of its own kind.’
‘They must have taken poor Singh.’
‘Perhaps we can find him,’ the Doctor said, ‘before it’s too late.’
When I woke again, I felt light-headed and a trifle transparent, but
otherwise the fever seemed to have abated; the horse pill that the Doctor
had fed me seemed to have done the trick. I rose from my sickbed and
tracked my host to a large, marble-walled room like a cross between the
drawing room of an Italian palazzo and a scientific laboratory. Sheaves
of candles burned on top of tall wrought iron stands. A pair of club
armchairs upholstered in red leather faced each other on either side of a
crackling log fire. There was a china tea service set out beside a green-
shaded lamp on a side table, and on another table a Victrola phonograph
was playing an unfamiliar jazz tune sung by a velvet-voiced Darktown
crooner to a piano accompaniment. Across the room, the Doctor was
working at an hexagonal pedestal. Its faces were studded with dials and
switches and glowing lights, and a pillar of crystal rods rose from its
centre, meshing with others that hung like stalactites from an unseen and
shadowy ceiling. Racks of small windows flickered above the pedestal,
glowing with electrical light and displaying lines of numbers and
The Doctor had removed a panel from the base of the pedestal, and was
kneeling down and poking at a tangle of wires and ceramic acorns with
something like a fat, silvery fountain pen with a glowing red acorn held
in a loop at its top. He wore a brown cotton duster over a high-collared
shirt and a grey cravat and grey trousers, and was muttering to himself
as he poked and pried, and sparks spat and sizzled deep inside the wires.
He had his back to me, but as I padded towards him he said cheerfully,
‘You’re just in time.’
‘For tea,’ he said, standing up and smiling at me. ‘How are you
‘Like a new man.’
‘I’m pleased to hear it. Although I should warn you not to wander
around too much. It’s very easy to get lost, and there are some dangerous
areas, especially for a chimera like your present good self. How did you
find your way here, by the way?’
‘I followed your scent,’ I said.
‘Did you now?’ The Doctor regarded me thoughtfully. ‘You have
changed more than I thought. Still, it’s under control for the moment, I
‘I was hoping to find a mirror,’ I said.
The Doctor walked across the room to a full-length cheval glass, halfdraped in a drop sheet, that stood in the shadows to the right of the
fireplace. He grasped an edge of the sheet and said, ‘Are you sure you’re
‘I seem to be growing fur over my body, Doctor. My face has changed
shape, and when I first got out of bed I had some difficulty walking
because the proportions of my legs are greatly altered. I think it’s only
fair that you allow your patient some idea of what’s becoming of him.
Or rather, what he’s becoming.’
‘Neither one thing nor the other, I hope, as long as the time-loop keeps
working,’ the Doctor said, and whipped away the sheet.
I gasped in amazement: the mirror gave back the reflection of my old
self. But as I stepped closer, my reflection slowly changed, my legs and
arms thickening, a thin fuzz striped amber and black spreading over
shoulders and flanks, a white fuzz coming in on my chest, my face
pushing out in a fearsome grin, half human, half tiger.
... as time goes by, the singer sang with soft regret, and there was a
crackling as the needle slipped into the playout groove.
The Doctor said, ‘I’ve been through changes myself. Not as radical as
yours, of course, but I’ve always found that the best thing to do is to face
up to what you’ve become. Stop worrying about what you used to be,
and enjoy what you are. Finding the right clothes – that’s important.
Once you’ve done that, everything else follows.’
I turned this way and that, examining my new body. ‘I expected
worse,’ I said. ‘I seem quite noble, if I say so myself.’
‘That’s the spirit.’ The Doctor’s tone was encouraging, but his gaze
‘I don’t blame anyone but myself for my present condition,’ I said. ‘It
was my decision to try to save Singh. I’m not sure if I believe in fate,
Doctor, but I do believe in playing the hand that you have been dealt.’
The Doctor walked over to the Victrola, lifted the needle from the
record and said, ‘If you like, the mirror can show you what you will
become if the tyger-fever runs its course.’
‘I think I know what that will look like. But let’s hope your hospital
world can do something for me instead.’
‘Yes. Yes, of course.’
‘Forgive me for saying so, Doctor, but you’re not a very good liar.
We’re still stuck here, aren’t we?’
He ran a hand through his tangled curls. ‘I’m sure I’ll be able to fix it.’
‘I don’t suppose there’s anything I can do.’